December 8th, 2009
12:38 PM ET
4 years ago

CNN Poll: Optimism on economy fading

Washington (CNN) - Two years into the current recession, Americans don't see economic conditions getting better any time soon, and the steady growth in optimism that previous polls measured throughout the year appears to have stalled, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Tuesday indicates that 34 percent of those questioned say that things are going well in the country today. That's 14 points higher than a year ago, but a dip of 3 points since November.

Full results (pdf)

"This the first time in Barack Obama's presidency that this number has gone down," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

According to the survey, 39 percent of the respondents say the country's still in a downturn, up 6 points from last month. Nearly half of those questioned say the economy has stabilized and a small minority, 15 percent, think the country is starting to recover.

"The recession has hit blue-collar families the hardest," Holland said. "More than half of whites who never attended college say economic conditions are still in a downturn. Most whites who attended college say things have stabilized or are starting to get better."

The poll's release comes hours before President Barack Obama delivers a major speech on the economy at the Brookings Institution, one of the oldest and most prestigious think-tanks in Washington.

It's clear why Obama is again addressing the economy: Although more U.S. troops are headed to Afghanistan and the Senate is debating health care, most Americans continue to say that the economy is the most important issue for them. Four in ten say the economy is their top concern; 17 percent cited health care and 16 percent say that Afghanistan and Iraq are the country's biggest problems.

According to the poll, 84 percent of those questioned say the economy is still in a recession, with 36 percent saying it's a serious one and another 35 percent calling it a moderate one.

What about the chances of the recession turning into another Great Depression?

"Forty-three percent say that might happen in the next 12 months, slightly higher than the number who worried about a Depression a year ago," added Holland.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted December 2-3, with 1,041 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percent for the overall sample.

–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Filed under: CNN poll • Economy
soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. Terry from West Texas

    If the CEOs of our banks and other lending institutions are not regulated, the recession could get worse. If we have learned anything from the experiences of the past two years, it is that a man will do anything for a hundred million dollars. And those CEOs are encouraged by a philosophy that assures them that the greatest greed produces the greatest good. That same Conservative philosophy exempts them from any responsibility if their actions lead to collateral damage such as bankrupting the nation, preventing sick people from getting medical care, feeding Americans tainted food, creating unemployment, and so on.

    They are already working on the next few bubbles. The gold bubble is the most obvious (btw: Glenn Beck assures us that gold is the safest investment. That should tell you there is a problem with gold.)

    December 8, 2009 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  2. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    So long as the Democrats in Congress persist in their outrageously irresponsible efforts to spend the country further into bankruptcy, the economy won't recover. It can't. The burden of growing debt, the huge uncertainty over the extent taxes will rise to cover the Democrats' insane spending, the uncertainty over the economic havoc promised by Cap-and-Tax, all conspire to keep the economy down.

    Who's going to do any significant hiring when they don't know how this health care fiasco is going to turn out and they get some idea of how much their health benefits costs are going to go up? Who's going to increase production of anything until they have some idea whether Americans will risk spending the money to create a demand?

    Uncertainty inhibits any willingness to take risks, and the tensions between the Big Government schemes of Congressional Democrats and the small-government ideals of the majority of Americans are creating huige uncertainties.

    December 8, 2009 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  3. Stephan

    Amazingly, everyone is polling differently with their wallet. Increasingly restaurants are filled to capacity on Friday and Saturday nights, people are buying new cars again, and fewer and fewer people are seeking unemployment benefits.

    December 8, 2009 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  4. even if this poll meant something

    I don't believe this is true

    I think the U.S. is strongly on the mend and we narrowly missed a plunge down the depression cliff

    Bush and his henchmen were trying hard, while taking the U.S. for all they could, to push us into a depression

    Obama is trying to fix what 8 years of GOP rule did, almost destroy the U.S.

    December 8, 2009 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  5. Reggie

    Latest Gallup Poll has Obama approval falling to 47%.


    December 8, 2009 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  6. Kevin in Ohio

    As long as Obama and Pelosi and Reid are running things, things will only get worse. The liberals are more interested in centralizing more power in the government than they are of truly helping out the American people.

    December 8, 2009 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  7. Jack Fl

    I am currently employed, closing on a house tomorrow and am planning to spend the 8k stimulus money on some furniture, appliances and other home items. It's working people but the stimulus money won't be spent until I receive it. These things take time. I see people hurting every day and hope they continue to receive help until more stimulus money gets moving throughout the economy and get folks back to work.

    December 8, 2009 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  8. Wayne

    I think the economy is in great shape. But then again, I don't need to make a six figure income to pay for outrageously extravagant items that I don't need (or want). It seems to me that inflation has halted, and that is a good thing.

    I said a long time ago that the true revolution will not happen in America by any type of force or political upheaval. It will happen when a large percentage of Americans stop buying unnecessary junk.

    America really needs to reread "Walden" by Henry David Thoreau.

    December 8, 2009 09:54 am at 9:54 am |

    Are the people polled on anti-depressants?

    December 8, 2009 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  10. Dean

    It is difficult to have high hopes about the economy when you have lost your job and you make a phone call to check on your checking account balance and a woman from India answers your call.

    December 8, 2009 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  11. Yes We Can

    It might help if the president seemed to care more about saving others' jobs than his own agenda.

    December 8, 2009 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  12. chemistry

    SC has the fifth highest unemployment in the US, Some 80,000+ manfacturing jobs have disappeared in the past 2 years and Wal Mart couldn't take up the slack in its stores laden with Chinese and other foreign goods. Former production workers cannot find comparable paying jobs. In the meanwhile Congress is upping the cost of doing business in the US and unscrupulous Corporate America will just export more jobs. But don't fret: if Harry and Nancy have their way all the unemployed will have health insurance. NO WONDER PEOPLE ARE PESSIMISTIC.

    December 8, 2009 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  13. A True Centrist

    This administration wasted big $ on a failed stimulus plan and bailing out companies that filed for bankruptcy anyways (i.e. Citigroup and GM). On top of that, we can add a 10% unemployment rate and slowed spending around the holiday season.

    I'd say the optimism should pretty much be non-existent right now.

    December 8, 2009 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  14. Dave

    Not surprising. Vesta wind turbine factory announced today that they putting 500 employees on furlough because of th tight credit market, and the low price of gas. But the EPA will find a way to make the price of gasoline skyrocket with new regulations.

    December 8, 2009 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  15. Enough

    There is NO reason to be optimistic. We have an inexperienced and naive president who is clueless when it comes to jobs and the economy. He seems to think we can spend our way out of the recession and bail out unions. A man with no business sense cannot possibly understand the needs of small businesses, nor does he seem to care. This is NOT Bush's doing, this recession has not recovered because of Obamas policies. The future of tax and spend is bleak and is only prolonging a recession that would have been on it's way to recovery if anyone other than Obama were president. You Democrats made a huge mistake by throwing Hillary under the bus in favor of this out of touch Liberal you elected. Next time vote with your brains and not on the hope of more entitlements.

    December 8, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  16. Uncle Buck

    Until we Americans come to face facts that we must make huge sacrafices in order to clean our house, we will remain in a constant state of trouble. Reagan and Bush decimated our economy with short term hype about tax cuts and economy growth. We enjoyed the artificial results, and then cry foul when we have to face the music for those results. We must now make some huge sacrafices, and probably most importantly, give up our false perception of economic importance in world affairs; our only importance now is that all our wealth is borrowed and that we owe everyone massive amounts of money. It's awfully hard to imagine that before the 60's this once great nation had barely any debt at all.

    December 8, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  17. karen

    Maybe the headline should have been 14 percent more people think things are going better than this time last year....this is the real story, not a 3 percentage point drop.....CNN strikes again with their misleading information I see.

    Perhaps this time my your moderators will allow my comments to be viewed.

    December 8, 2009 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  18. LAGayGuy

    I think she need shoes also, bush got one and she needs it.
    Tomato was not the right option

    i cannot believe people fall for her, are you people trying to repeat Bush mistake??

    December 8, 2009 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  19. Duh

    What's the margin of error in this poll? >3%?

    December 8, 2009 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  20. Scott, Tucson

    Hm mm, guess obama needs a new slogan to replace 'Hope and Change' that one is not working out so good is it obama fans.

    December 8, 2009 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  21. gt

    gee i wonder why care mess.... cap and trade job killer...war in the middle east.... the admistration wanting more and more taxes...more and more layoffs .... no wonder everyone thinks this economy stinks ,,,,

    December 8, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  22. eolufemi

    Go to school and pursue a career that's in demand.

    The best the government can do for you is help pay for school.

    Everything else is just to placate you.

    The only "jobs program" the government has successfully implemented is called education.

    Simple as that.

    December 8, 2009 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  23. Puddin

    For those who have lost their jobs, have used up all their savings, are losing their homes, health insurance and no COBRA, etc., etc., the economy is certainly NOT better!!! Everyone should think of themselves in those same circumstances; it is brutal. And consider this...those people who lost their jobs are not paying taxes, so the state and federal budgets will surely be affected. Along with passing affordable healthcare, jobs should be the priority.

    December 8, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  24. james Miller

    There ain`t no quick fix to the problems that`s been 8+ years in the making. Face facts, It`s going to take 10 years, if ever, to dig our way out of this mess. --- It`s a GLOBAL ECONOMY folks and the playing field ISN`T level.

    December 8, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  25. Ben in Fort Wayne, IN

    Things were bad when the current regime took over. Due to lack of experience and generally bad policies they have exacerbated the economic situation.

    December 8, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
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